SUMMARY: An average hike to a large unmarked arch. This description involves a stream crossing without a bridge (1 crossing in each direction.) There are better arches in the gorge, but Castle Arch is probably one of the larger arches after Natural Bridge and Sky Bridge, it is definitely one of the larger 10 arches in Red River gorge. My primary disappointment is Castle Arches’ close proximity to nearby roads. It is essential to bring a compass and a good map and know how to use them.
RATING: Moderate Hike (about 1.0 miles) The distance is short on this hike, but the entire trail is unmarked. This hike uses unmarked trails and some people have trouble navigating the hike.
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO WALK: Early spring when flowers are blooming or autumn when you can catch the fall colors. The USDA Forest Office is located in Winchester, Kentucky about an hour from Red River Gorge. For up to date information either stop in the Ranger District Office, visit their website or telephone: (859) 745-3100
AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED: Allow a half of a day (2-4 hours) to enjoy this hike.
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD:
- From rest area at exit #33 off of the Mountain State Parkway Turn left, and return to the Mountain State Park – West (8.0 miles)
- Take Exit 40 for for KY-15/KY-715 toward Beattyville. (0.3 miles)
- Turn right at KY-15 N/KY-715 N. (0.7 miles)
- Take the 1st right onto KY-715 N. (5.4 miles)
- Park in unmarked parking area on right side (approximately 0.5 miles after Sky Bridge Recreation Area road,) and immediately after another parking area on the left side.
- From the pull off where you parked follow the unmarked trail on the same side of the road as it descends to the river. It begins on the right side of the parking area as you are looking at the river (0.1 miles)
- Find a place to cross the river ASAP and cross. There is no bridge and good water shoes make the crossing easier.
- After crossing the river immediately begin heading up the hill in a line perpendicular to the river. There are many unmarked trails, and following one of them will make the journey easier. (0.3 miles)
- At the top of the hill your goal is to come out below a rocky ridge line which means you are most likely below the ridge with Castle Arch. To get to Castle Arch, go around the ridge line to your left. (0.1 miles) There are atleast 2 ways around the ridge to your left. Eventually you will be on the back side of the arch in a little area below the arch and must walk up the last 100 feet or so to get underneath of the arch. Once underneath of Castle Arch you can pass through the arch and around to your right where you can scramble up on top of Castle Arch for better views.
- Return to parking area on the unmarked trails (0.5 miles)